A Palace fit for fes­tiv­ity

Pasatiempo - - Music And Performance - Dou­glas Fair­field The New Mex­i­can

“With the open­ing of the new His­tory Mu­seum, some peo­ple wor­ried the Palace of the Gov­er­nors would be lost in its shadow,” Kate Nel­son, mar­ket­ing man­ager for the Palace and the mu­seum, told Pasatiempo in early De­cem­ber.

There’s no risk of that hap­pen­ing on Fri­day, Dec. 11, when Christ­mas at the Palace rings in the hol­i­day in tra­di­tional fash­ion while the younger sis­ter in­sti­tu­tion sleeps the night away. “This event lets the Palace shine alone and show off its role as a wit­ness to 400 hol­i­day sea­sons,” Nel­son said.

This year marks the Palace’s 25th sea­son of cel­e­brat­ing Christ­mas in a pub­lic way. Re­fresh­ments, live mu­sic, and other en­ter­tain­ment are planned, in­clud­ing the highly an­tic­i­pated ar­rival of Mr. and Mrs. Claus, decked out in their sig­na­ture red and white at­tire and black boots. Whether they will land on the roof and slip down the chim­ney or sashay through the front door is any­body’s guess.

Among the spe­cial events is a cel­e­bra­tion of the re­open­ing of the newly re­fur­bished Press of the Palace of the Gov­er­nors — more com­monly known as the Palace Print Shop and Bindery. This tourist des­ti­na­tion, which at­tracts up to 70,000 peo­ple an­nu­ally, not count­ing school groups, was shut down for ren­o­va­tion last year dur­ing the Christ­mas sea­son. “It was quite dis­cour­ag­ing ... not to be able to par­tic­i­pate,” said Thomas Leech, cu­ra­tor of the Palace Press. “I felt like Santa left a lump of coal in my stock­ing!”

But Leech be­lieves the tem­po­rary clo­sure of the press was worth the wait. “Two-thirds of the fa­cil­ity has been to­tally re­con­di­tioned, in­clud­ing the win­dows, floor­ing, and walls,” he said by tele­phone. “The re­main­der of the floor space has been re­designed to ac­com­mo­date a re­con­struc­tion of artist Gus­tave Bau­mann’s stu­dio and work­shop as well as a sep­a­rate exhibit ac­knowl­edg­ing the Es­tan­cia News-Her­ald and the J.A. Con­stant fam­ily, who founded and man­aged the News-Her­ald from 1912 to 1947.” The Con­stant fam­ily do­nated their orig­i­nal press equip­ment to the Palace in 1970, and that was the mo­ti­va­tion to es­tab­lish the Palace Press in 1972.

Hol­i­day fes­tiv­i­ties will in­clude a chance for vis­i­tors to print per­son­al­ized Christ­mas cards and, as­sisted by mem­bers of the Santa Fe Book Arts Group, con­struct their own printer’s caps. The caps are made from a va­ri­ety of newsprint. “I’ve been ex­per­i­ment­ing with var­i­ous lo­cal pa­pers,” Leech said. “ Pasatiempo makes a rather small­ish hat for adults, but it’s good for kids. Truth be told, the Santa Fe Re­porter works slightly bet­ter for adults.” Leech was still de­cid­ing a spe­cific de­sign for this year’s Christ­mas card when Pasatiempo spoke with him, but he was con­sid­er­ing a per­ti­nent quote from Charles Dick­ens. Any­one who loves the pun­gent smell of printer’s ink and the sound of vin­tage presses churn­ing away won’t want to miss the Palace press in the in­ner court­yard.

Also new this year is the dis­play of The Na­tiv­ity, an early 18th-cen­tury oil on can­vas paint­ing by Mex­i­can-born artist Juan Cor­rea the Elder (circa 1645-1716) that is part of the Palace’s per­ma­nent col­lec­tion. Due to its frag­ile con­di­tion, the work is rarely ex­hib­ited. “The Na­tiv­ity was one of sev­eral can­vases that once formed an al­tar screen ded­i­cated to the Vir­gin Mary that was prob­a­bly 25 to 30 feet high and 20 feet wide,” said Josef Diaz, cu­ra­tor of South­west­ern and Mex­i­can col­lec­tions at the Palace. The Na­tiv­ity it­self mea­sures 68 by 59 inches.

The paint­ing de­picts the holy fam­ily and show­cases the birth of the Christ child, po­si­tioned promi­nently within the com­po­si­tion on a white cloth atop a bed of straw. The child is at­tended to by Mary, and stand­ing op­po­site her are Joseph and three other male fig­ures. Cor­rea has dis­pensed with any an­i­mals among the en­sem­ble cast. The sin­gle source of light seems to be the child, while hov­er­ing above and looking down on the group are two angels hold­ing a ban­ner that reads “Glory to God in the High­est” in Latin.

Cor­rea’s paint­ing was once part of a pri­vate col­lec­tion be­long­ing to New Mex­ico res­i­dents Charles and Nina Col­lier. The cou­ple col­lected pieces of art dur­ing their so­journs to South Amer­ica and Mex­ico, Diaz said. “In 1958, [the Col­liers] founded the In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute of Ibe­rian Colo­nial Art to pre­serve their grow­ing col­lec­tion, which was later do­nated to the Palace of the Gov­er­nors.” Con­se­quently, Diaz be­lieves

the Palace pos­sesses one of the truly ex­cep­tional col­lec­tions of New World colo­nial paint­ings. “The col­lec­tion con­sists of 70 paint­ings and three bul­tos from 17th-and 18th-cen­tury Mex­ico and South Amer­ica, with such artists as Cor­rea and José de Páez from Mex­ico, and Diego Tito, the In­can painter from Peru,” he said.

Diaz’s re­search on Cor­rea re­vealed that he was the child of a prom­i­nent mu­latto physi­cian from Cádiz and a free black woman from Mex­ico City. Seen as a mas­ter of the Span­ish Baroque style of paint­ing — given to rich, dark color schemes and dra­matic use of chiaroscuro with com­bined el­e­ments of Euro­pean man­ner­ism and Mex­i­can nat­u­ral­ism — Cor­rea was com­mis­sioned for nu­mer­ous paint­ings through­out the Span­ish colonies, in­clud­ing for Mex­ico City’s metropoli­tan cathe­dral. In ad­di­tion, the artist main­tained a stu­dio and work­shop in Mex­ico City, where he served as men­tor to other artists, with Juan Ro­driguez Juarez and José de Ibarra be­lieved to have been among them. Other paint­ings by Cor­rea may be seen in the chapel of the Rosary in the con­vent of Az­capotzalco in Mex­ico City and the Durango Cathe­dral in Durango. His work also adorns the church of St. Ni­co­las in Seville, Spain, while some spec­u­late that Guadalu­pana, a 1712 paint­ing that hangs in the lobby of St. John’s Hospi­tal in Santa Mon­ica, Cal­i­for­nia, was the last paint­ing he fin­ished.

Diaz said The Na­tiv­ity is a work by “one of the great mas­ters of Baroque paint­ing in New Spain. The piece is a skill­ful re­li­gious paint­ing with the­atri­cal lighting giv­ing the sa­cred fig­ures a mys­ti­cal pres­ence. It is a touch­ing re­li­gious state­ment that is sim­ple in con­cep­tion yet so loaded with sig­nif­i­cance and spir­i­tual in­ten­sity that it be­comes iconic.”

Per­for­mances at this year’s Christ­mas at the Palace in­clude drum­ming on the por­tal by Lawrence Toya at 4:45 p.m., a quar­tet of mu­si­cians (Erick Il­lick, Sarah Ro­gowsey, Pe­cos Singer, and vo­cal­ist Maya Rose Tweten) af­fil­i­ated with the Santa Fe Con­cert As­so­ci­a­tion’s EPIK pro­gram for young mu­si­cians at 5:30 p.m., fla­menco gui­tar by Chus­cales at 5:30 p.m., and sa­cred choral mu­sic from Schola Can­to­rum of Santa Fe at 6:30 p.m. “Lis­ten to the per­form­ers with your eyes closed,” Nel­son said, “and it’s like you’ve gone back in time to how Christ­mas was cel­e­brated way back when.”

Juan Cor­rea the Elder: The Na­tiv­ity (early 18th cen­tury), oil on can­vas, 68 x 59 inches

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